It’s finally here! The time of year most Lions fans have circled on the calendar! The time of year many consider to be the start of the season. Training camp!
This offseason was much like last, where Lions GM Bob Quinn continued his plan by adding depth to the roster and instilling competition at multiple positions across the board.
“When we do the evaluation process it’s important to not only look at the player and what position they played in college, but have they played a position previously in sophomore or freshman year. When you’re projecting to the NFL can they play a different positions,’’ Quinn said. “We can only dress 46 players (on Sundays) so every roster spot we bring to the game is vitally important.’’
Here are the top 5 position battles that will be looked at under a microscope going into training camp and into preseason games.
Let’s be honest, at the end of the 2016 season did we really see this as an issue? Taylor Decker suffered an injury at practice back in June, we flash forward to present day and he is out 4-6 months after having surgery on his torn labrum. So, luckily we have Bob Quinn and his lust for depth. With Corey Robinson on the shelf with an injury, the Lions used Joe Dahl and Cornelius Lucas at the position until the end of spring practices, giving the front office time to look for outside replacements. They did just that. Quinn was able to bring in former 2nd overall pick from the Rams LT Greg Robinson via trade and ink former Bills 2nd round pick LT Cyrus Kouandjio on the same day. The team is hoping a change of scenery will help them both, as they both have not lived up to their high expectations.
The good news here is the NFL is making this position utterly unimportant by rule changes. The bad news- the Lions still need to fill the role. TJ Jones, Dwayne Washington, Keshawn Martin, Jace Billingsley, and rookie CB Jamal Agnew are all in the running for the opening.
TJ Jones lost the battle last year to Andre Roberts, who departed for the Atlanta Falcons this off season. Jones is the better receiver between Billingsley and Martin, but Martin has far more experience returning kicks than the others listed. With the depleting importance of a good kick returner, it is important that the player can also play else where on the field. The winner of this battle will have to crack the depth chart at his respective position first.
This could be one of the better battles! Quandre Diggs played excellent last year before going down with a torn pectoral late in the season. I spoke about change of scenery earlier and DJ Hayden could use just that. After signing a 1-year deal this off season he was penciled in as the early favorite to win the job. Then the draft happened. The Lions took Teez Tabor in the 2nd and Jamal Agnew in the 5th. Teez is expected to push Nevin Lawson for the outside spot opposite Darius Slay which would then force Lawson into this battle should Tabor win the other side. It is setting up to be a wild ride in the secondary!
If Ziggy Ansah is healthy, his spot is not up for grabs. After placing 30th last year with a measly 26 sacks, the team needs to get to the quarterback more often this year. Kerry Hyder did a great job of that last season, utterly coming out of nowhere. This off season the Lions signed Cornelius Washington away from the Bears. Armonty Bryant has to prove his worth in camp and convince the staff that he deserves to be on the roster despite having to serve a 4-game suspension to start the season. His 2nd 4-game suspension of his career.
The team drafted Eastern Michigan University’s all time sack leader DE Pat O’Connor in the 7th round of this year’s draft. They also brought in two UDFA’s, Jeremiah Valoaga and Alex Barrett. Barrett was guaranteed $36,000 by signing with the Lions which is most of all the undrafted free agents this year across the league. When Bob Quinn was asked in a post draft press conference how he feels about the end position, he gave this response “I feel good”.
“I think it’s really good football business to acquire a young quarterback every year or every other year,” Quinn said.
The Lions took Brad Kaaya from Miami in the 6th round in the 2017 draft to promote competition with former University of Michigan QB Jake Rudock. With Dan Orlovsky signing with the LA Rams last week and barring another signing, it is almost a guarantee you will be seeing one or the other dressing on Sundays. Both quarterbacks are still practice squad eligible but you risk losing one to another team. Rudock has made strides this offseason and Kaaya, at one point in his collegiate career was considered a 1st round quarterback. It is entirely possible the team doesn’t say “Bye Felicia” to either.
If you have not see the Dan Orlovsky Tribute Video Check it out here!
90 players will be going into camp, 53 will be coming out. There will be disappointment, there will be celebration, and there will be excitement!